Contract manufacturer TSMC: Two fabs for N2 and N1 chips cost over $58 billion


Taiwan's Vice Premier Shen Jong-chin revealed details about TSMC's future mega-fabs just days before the election. These are the most modern of their kind for the N2 production steps with the first use of Gate All Around (GAA) and the successor N1 with even smaller structures, but are therefore also extremely expensive.

A double-digit billion amount for a completely new semiconductor factory according to the latest standards is nothing new in the industry, recently 12, 16 or even 20 billion US dollars were always estimated for a plant. It is obvious that it will become even more expensive with advancing technologies, because in the end it is not the shell or the building itself, but the equipment inside that devours the billions.

Some of these new machines alone cost significantly more. ASML recently stated again that the successors to the regular EUV exposure systems, which already cost around 180 million euros, will cost at least 350 million euros as a high-NA version. In a few years, this value is likely to easily break the 400 million mark, this number has been haunting around since last year or the beginning of the year. Since a correspondingly large number of these systems are needed for the gigafabs, as TSMC calls them, the costs are exploding.

New factories are becoming expensive

In this respect, the number games for the two new factory complexes are not so far-fetched. Around 800 billion New Taiwan dollars are mentioned for the new N2 complex, which corresponds to around 26 billion US dollars. Most recently, it was said that construction should start in spring 2023, and a location near the current Fab 15 had been selected.

More than 1 trillion New Taiwan dollars are being discussed for the new construction of the N1 complex, around 32.5 billion US dollars. Once again, the Longtan Science Park is named as the location, TSMC is already present here too, the Advanced Packaging Fab 3 is located there, among other things. However, there is no schedule here yet, at least not one that has already been announced.

Prices are rising significantly

In the end, the costs are passed on to the customers. A current media report describes that the wafer costs will already increase significantly again with N3 chips, the price spiral should continue to increase with N2 and N1 and quickly leave the 20,000 US dollar mark of N3 behind. The price development for the wafers is impressive and quickly explains why some companies prefer to stick with older technologies for the time being – if they can afford it.

Prices for exposed 300 mm wafers by technology level (Image: DigiTimes)